Draco picked up a tiny porcelain dog from its lineup of similar Muggle atrocities that stood sentry along the stairway from an overhead shelf. He turned it over in his hands—petite painted toenails, black and white spotting, and a blotting of pink on its nose—and then replaced it, wiping his fingers with a handchief. He remembered one Yule celebration during his years at Hogwarts: a foreign wizard who'd just come from Ireland presented his mother with something similar—a round cherub face, little angel's wings—and his mother had received it graciously. Following the man's departure, it was shuffled away to some undiscoverable storeroom, never again to see the light of day.
He was not sent an invitation the following year.
Lace trimmed the edges of the curtains. The pillows on the chairs had scenes of happy puppies and playful ducklings. Thomas Kinkade papered the walls.
The place was chintzy, low-brow, plebian, common, gaudy, tawdry, and tacky, and he was certain he'd need a thesaurus to truly express the fundamental nature of its status.
Then came the cooing. "Good morning, Draco. Can I bring you some tea and biscuits before you head out?" Mrs. Loche, the proprietor of Loche Home Bed and Breakfast where Draco would be trapped until he cracked his current case, reached out to pat his arm. He stepped away. Another day at the most, he assured himself with a shudder. Due to her exuberance, relentless smile, and tendency to ply Draco with tea dainties, his hatred of her grew incrementally, measured by each cheery word she imparted through those bright red lips. "You might need a jumper; it looks a bit windy out there. Do you have yourself a Charmed Wool jumper yet? They are made right in this very town, and you can get 'em at Wiseman's!" she said proudly.
Draco pulled out a smile from his formidable box of masks. "Yes, perhaps you're right. I was wondering, do you know the maker?"
"Oh, that would be Steven Manikin, out on the Head, about six and a half kilometers from the lighthouse. He's a fairly shy boy, keeps to himself. Came here 'bout three years ago. About your age, I'd say."
"Really? How amazing, Mrs. Loche." His cheeks began to ache. "Imagine, a knitting celebrity right here in Durrus. Where is his workshop located?" Draco asked. Mrs. Loche looked curiously at him. "The jumpers are simply exquisite; I was hoping to maybe observe their creation, see his technique," he added, spicing up his words with enough soggy adoration that Mrs. Loche released her suspicions. Easier than a Hufflepuff.
"Oh, well, he might see you if he's not too busy-busy with his orders," she tittered, her fingers fluttering before her glossed lips. "He's located…"
Draco listened intently as the old lady directed him by landmarks: "Left at the oak tree, it's the biggest one around, you can't miss it," and "Pass right by the fenced, yellow house, there're two wolfhounds in the yard large as ponies and the back field's got a few sheep." The impulse to muffle her nearly cut off his will to survive. The things he allowed himself to be subjected to for the sake of duty and keeping hold of his honorless job.
"Now, don't forget to go up and get your jumper, dear. Don't want you catching cold." She nodded at him as if she spoke such great wisdom he would soon be nodding along.
Draco nodded, and then realized she'd stopped talking; he tried to remember the last thing she'd just babbled at him. She looked poised to reach up and touch his brow, so he scooted away, and then it came to him—jumper.
"Yes, I'll go do that. Thank you, Mrs. Loche."
He climbed back up the stairs, taking two at a time, before slipping into his room, clicking the door closed, and leaning up against it with a sag to his shoulders. This job was going to drive him 'round the bend.
He looked at the long scroll unraveled on his bed. The Muggle Repelling charm on it had caused Mrs. Locke to continually forget to come in and freshen his towels and make his bed. He hated resorting to using magic to clean his linens, they just didn't feel the same, or having to ask her for new towels every morning and having her think he was unreasonable.
Written in big, bold letters across the top of the thick parchment was the following heading:
Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Regulations Part 71, Section (1), Subsection (BB) – Illegal Enchantment of Muggle Items Marketed towards Muggles.
Case No.: 09-77591
Case Summary: The Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department (MMAD) is aware of illegally enchanted wool sweaters being manufactured and distributed to the Muggle public in County Cork, Ireland.
Agent Assigned: Draco Malfoy
Assignment: To find the manufacturer of the illegally enchanted wool sweaters. To halt the production of the illegally enchanted wool sweaters. To bring the manufacturer to face charges in the Lower Criminal Court of the Secondary Wizengamot.
The Secondary Wizengamot. Draco scoffed. Dealing with those two-bit flunkies of law was possibly more banal than working through his probation had been. Then he thought of his own position, the successor of a Weasley, worrying about such imbecilic things like charmed sweaters.
He raised his eyes to the ceiling, took a breath, and then pushed himself off the door.
He'd find his criminal—Steven Manikin—probably some struggling wizard who'd lost his family in the war, slap him in a full body-bind, and be back to London before the day was out. Then he could return to Zeus and his small flat above the pastry shop, get some baguettes, feed the owl as he watched the next episode of America's Top Model, and boo that ugly harpy with the black bob that bore a spooky resemblance to Pansy. The show had been going downhill, though, so maybe he'd pick up the next Wallingsworth novel.
He grabbed the scroll, wound it up, and tucked it into a silk satchel that he slung over his right shoulder; hopefully the removal of it from the room would reward him with clean towels and crisp, white sheets. With a sigh he pulled a gray, cashmere jumper on over his head. There was no way this Charmed Wool crap could ever equate to cashmere.
Skipping down the stairs, he stared straight ahead, running the gamut of porcelain guardians, and waved at the moon-faced proprietor as he darted through the door.
Sitting a short walk off the Sheep's Head Way, Loche House was a two-story brick block. The window frames and door had been painted red in an attempt to lighten its character and it was perched on the Dunmanus Bay side of town on a grassy track. Draco could smell the fresh scent of the placid sea on the breeze that eagerly played with a tress of his long hair. He pulled the satchel off his shoulder and cast a quick Retrieval Charm, summoning a black ribbon into his hand. Taking the ribbon he tied his hair back, jeering at the wind's attempt to muss him and inwardly cheering at this personal victory.
Yes, he was petty, but when it came to his beauty, he was allowed.
Up the lane lined with tangerine and yellow buildings towards the market center of town was the Long Boat Pub, another of the tropical fruit colored square buildings that seemed to be the only breed around southern Ireland. He'd visited the local the last two nights and he had to admit the crab salad he'd eaten his first night was decent. Unfortunately, one blue-collar had spilled a lager on him, and Draco had argued with the barkeep to have him tossed out on his arse, but everyone in the damned place had just laughed at him.
Nobody laughed at Draco Malfoy. So he'd left and would never return again. There were two other pubs in town; not, he reminded himself, that he would be here much longer.
Their shepherd's pie sucked dog dick anyway. Probably used mutton and last year's frozen corn.
He passed by the Long Boat with his nose pointing towards the clouds, and began walking towards Wolfe Tone Square, where the walk to the Head began. Mrs. Loche had said there was a tour bus that regularly drove down the Sheep's Head, stopping at different spots for the walkers, but Draco intended to walk the entire eleven kilometers to this Manikin's place, and wasn't that a sorry name? He felt that a name said a lot about a person, and Manikin didn't say much, other than he was a puppet; someone posed by other people.
Draco puffed out his chest. He was a dragon.
He passed by the giant anchor that stood proudly in the center of the Square and headed down the Head. After walking for approximately a half hour, passing bog asphodel, royal fern, and other potion botanicals, Draco became bored with the salty air and the dull trail along the bay. The water was briny and the scent of fish was prevalent whenever he passed fisherman dotting the water's edge. Plus, he felt a sore spot on his heel; he was certain he was developing a blister. He took a good look at the long line of the bay, at the gentle slope of the land lined with little stone walls that ended in short cliffs, and saw two small villages spotting the idyllic sheepland up ahead. No other walkers were close, so he scrambled over a low wall and hid behind an old rock cairn. With the landscape sharp in his mind, he twisted and Disapparated, popping up a few kilometers down the peninsula.
From his new vantage point tucked behind a rocky outcropping along the coast, he couldn’t see much beyond the other side of Dunmanus Bay. The dark water was rippling in the breeze, and the land rose up from it like the shell of a giant turtle, sloping low and endless, dotted with clouds of sheep and shaggy cows. He climbed over the rocks and nearly stumbled over an old fisherman impaling a small fish on a very large hook.
"Heya," the codger said. He lifted up a gnarled hand that shook with palsy. He looked simply ghastly with his liver spots and faded coveralls, his mouth sunken in for lack of teeth.
"Hello," Draco said with morbid curiosity at the flopping perch in the man's hand. He then noticed a large oak tree not too far in the distance behind him. He smiled, not at the man, nor the fish, but at the tree. The fisherman smiled at him with a shaky nod that seemed to cause the man's head to go round and round, like the London Eye.
With a broad side-step around the Muggle, Draco passed him and headed towards the great oak. It was easily a hundred years old and had long ago become the last of its kind. No other trees even reached this size; not even the ghosts of red squirrels still haunted this heath. Underneath the tree, Draco looked up into its foliage; the lighting sparkled through the early spring leaves, dabbled and jaunty. This tree held no grudges.
It didn't realize what it was missing out on.
He scanned the area for a bright yellow house and saw five. Yellow, a terrible orange contrivance, and an aquamarine green were the predominate color choices of the inhabitants out here on the edge of nowhere. With a sigh, he headed for the closest one.
The sore spot was definitely bubbling into a blister, which he healed with a rudimentary spell, and if another old man or woman poked their nosy heads out through a cracked door, he might hex them. He couldn't keep this smile on anymore, his face felt frozen, but he didn’t need another reprimand from Perkins about being "unfriendly with the Muggles." It was just too pitiful to watch the old man try to appear authoritative.
Finally, he saw them. Two lumbering monsters were stalking up the lane towards him, their teeth bared, growling like beasts from the deepest parts of the Romanian wilderness. Draco's heart skidded and he took a wary step back, digging into his pocket for his wand.
"Peking! Romeo! Come on back, boys." Both dogs' ears lifted, and the two wolfhounds turned and trotted back to a man who was leaning against a white post and rail fence that surrounded a modest yellow home. In a field surrounding the cottage was a flock of black-faced sheep.
Once the dogs—big as a pony his arse, they were the size of elephants!—were stationed on each side of the man, Draco remembered his smile and popped it onto his lips.
"Hello," the man said with an upward lift to his chin. He was in his early-thirties, tall with a head of dark brown hair that brushed against his eyebrows in the wind. "You enjoying the Walk?" he asked.
"Yes, it is a beautiful day," Draco replied from his list of simpering 'small talk to share with the locals' that Perkins had made him study, a bit astounded to have it come in use. He'd learned long ago that most country folk didn't quite know how to react to dealing with aristocracy like himself, so he was kind and lowered himself to their level.
It reminded him of the slumming runs he and Blaise used to enjoy after the war, when they'd first left Hogwarts five years ago. He'd still been on probation then. They'd dress up in Muggle clothing and attempt to integrate themselves with the hoi polloi. It had been all the rage for purebloods to pretend they were interested in and enjoyed the Muggles back then.
But too soon, they had to face reality, get jobs in a world that hated them for what they stood for: beauty, breeding, manners, purity of blood.
"You doing okay there?" the man asked, and Draco realized that he'd been scowling.
"Oh, yes, thank you. I was hoping you could help me; do you know a Stephen Manikin who might be living around here?" He tried very hard to be friendly to the rural bloke, and it was a real possibility that he'd just felt his face crack from all the smiling he'd been doing today.
The man's eyebrows rose behind his fringe of hair, and one of the wolfhounds, maybe it was Romeo, tilted his head up at him.
"Sure. He's that house over there." The man lifted his arm, the cuff of his button down slipping up past his wrist, and pointed to a little brick cottage about a hundred yards up the road. It had a few small trees surrounding it and some bright pink flowers growing by the post box.
"Yeah, thanks!" Draco said and turned away, letting his face fall into a comfortable, haughty sneer.
"What is it you want to talk to him for?" the man called out after Draco as he headed for the house.
Without even turning around, Draco mumbled, "Oh, just a few questions about his jumpers."
He walked up the three steps to the front door, which was painted a deep blue, and leaned over to peek into the plate glass window. The curtains were closed. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Dog Man watching him, thumbs hooked into his hip pockets. Nosy neighbors. Nosy damned country. Draco waved, then lifted his hand and knocked.
The door opened with little wait, and Draco's shock almost knocked him to the ground.
"Potter?" he blurted.
"Malfoy!" Potter replied. "How…?" He stopped and looked around behind Draco as if he expected a small contingent of Aurors to be escorting the MMAD team member.
But he didn't know Draco worked for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department, he didn't know Draco and his parents had been rejected by the wizarding world, he didn't bloody well know much because Harry Potter had disappeared a year after he'd defeated Voldemort.
"Stephen." Draco jumped and spun around, facing the man from the yellow house and his two rabid beasts. "Everything okay?" Dog Man smiled at Potter, and his features underwent a total refit as friendliness slowly surfaced from under the thin pool of 'I trust you as far as I can throw you' that he'd worn for Draco. Right in that instant, Draco knew this man brewed an unhealthy interest in the wizarding world's savior.
Potter ran his fingers through his hair, trimmed short along the sides and back but still had some length to the top, and shyly smiled. Shyly smiled?! Draco looked from one man to the next, completely invisible to them, even as the dogs brushed past his legs to jump on Potter and lick his face.
"Romeo! Peking!" Potter called, laughing as the two demons lashed out with slimy tongues and wagged their tails about like clubs, beating Draco's very fine and delicate thighs and waist. "Down, boys."
Dog Man chuckled, it was low and intimate and something about it brought warmth to Potter's cheeks as he squatted down to pet Romeo and Peking. "How you doing, boys?" Potter said, scratching each dog across its shoulders and neck.
Draco looked at Dog Man, who returned the gaze in equal measure.
"Potter," Draco said, crisp and clear so Potter's little friend would hear it, "We need to have a discussion about a few things. In private." He smirked at Dog Man, who scowled, then dropped his gaze down to Potter.
"Stephen, is this guy harassing you?"
"Oh, come now, I'm sure Stephen can take care of himself. What kind of a threat does little old me pose?" Draco lifted up his hands and shrugged his shoulders. Then, out of spite, he winked at the man.
His jaw dropped.
Draco turned his back on him, taking a shuffling step to the side as a dog's great rear end pushed him towards the edge of the steps. "Well, Potter?"
"Yeah, yeah, Malfoy. Don't get your knickers in a twist," Potter said with a sigh. "Sorry, Darren. Nothing to worry about. Just a … an old schoolmate," he finished, continuing to scratch the dogs and not meeting either of their eyes.
"Yeah?" Dog Man asked. The heat from his glare burned Draco's cheek, but he refused to look that direction. He watched Potter instead.
Finally, Potter looked up at his neighbor and nodded. "Yeah. Thanks, though."
"Okay." The neighbor retreated down the steps and whistled. The two dogs loped down after him. One of them bumped Draco and he nearly tumbled down the steps. He considered which curse would be best for the mangy beast: evisceration or skinning alive. "But call if you need me, yeah?"
"Sure thing," Potter called after him and then looked at Draco. The silence that settled was crisp and entirely out of Draco's control. This wasn't how he dealt with law breakers. He opened his mouth to speak, but Potter beat him to it.
"Well, I guess you should come in," he said and stepped back from the door, leaving plenty of room to allow Draco to pass.
Surprisingly, this wasn't exactly the exchange he had envisioned if he'd ever met Potter again, not that he'd often envisioned such a reunion. He remembered after Potter had saved him from that burning room how he couldn't think of the man in the same light, and how shocked and saddened he'd been upon discovering that Potter had gone missing, could even be dead. That emotion had been unexpected; that he'd felt anything for the man was unexpected. But he'd long ago admitted it to himself. He could admit a certain attachment to a ghost, but not a living, breathing person.
Fortunately, Draco had many masks, and he donned one of blasé disinterest as he walked into Potter's little home.
It was tiny, though Draco had to admit it might be about the same size as his own flat… if possibly a tad larger, and had a thoroughly lived in feel. A small couch with the fabric worn smooth on the arms faced a telly, and a cold fireplace covered most of the left wall. A kitchen could be seen in the back of the house and a hallway led off to the right. The air held the hint of fish and lemon, and Draco's stomach grumbled at his lack of breakfast.
A large painting, an original swirled with thin ropes of paint, hung over the fireplace. A sailing ship of the 1800s fought the wind and sea in an account recorded only in deep strokes and the highlights of the frothy swell of the ocean. A wave half the height of the ship's mast was held frozen before it crashed over that flimsy construction of wood, and something about it touched Draco—the storm, or maybe the impending slam of the water that pledged either release or destruction.
"Tea?" Harry asked, and Draco was pinched out of his muddled thoughts.
Without any true thought to his response, Draco said, "Yes, please," then, "Is this artist local?"
Potter looked up at the painting, his gaze reaching back into some past that swam in sadness and Draco swallowed his regret for asking. "Yes," Potter said. "He was." He turned away from the art piece and entered the kitchen.
Draco approached the painting and leaned close to examine the signature.
"Milk or sugar?" came from the kitchen.
"Sugar, no milk." Richard Kennedy. Draco didn't recognize the artist, not that he'd expected to if the painting was made here in the barren lands of County Cork, away from all things that Draco had ever bothered to care about.
So violent and stormy, but that ship—to Draco it looked like a refuge, even with the wave poised to attack.
The clatter of cups on saucers came from the kitchen and Draco stepped away. In two strides he circled the edge of the couch to sit, only just planting his butt as Potter walked in with a little tray and two cups. It was so domestic; Draco barely had the frame of mind to slip on a suitably professional smile.
"So… uh…" Potter set the tray down on a plain end table "…what brings you to the Sheep's Head?"
Draco reached for the teacup closest to him, a rather boring little thing, white with a blue stripe around the lip, and sipped the sweetened tea. Then he looked up and nailed Potter with his eyes. Potter's own grew wide in their sockets and he began to squirm in his recliner.
But then Draco smiled, the disarming one he'd practiced in the mirror to make those who suspected him up to something to drop their pathetic attempts to read him, and said, "Well, actually Potter. I've heard about these Charmed Wool jumpers and just had to meet the creator of such a fine garment."
Potter grew still. With impending expulsion, his eyes widened to the point where Draco feared for their future. He was certain he'd never seen someone so flummoxed; even Pansy, when he'd told her where he would be beginning his Ministry career, hadn't been this adrift in a world of brain malfunction.
Then he smiled, and the entire room brightened. Draco had to squint so as not to go blind.
"Really? You've heard of my jumpers—?" Potter sprang from the recliner and dashed down the hallway, calling out, "—I'm really surprised." In mere moments he came dashing back into the living room with his arms full of the objects of Draco's mission.
They were tastefully dyed in dark colors—greens, reds, and Draco's favorite, grays—and derailed by Potter's childish excitement, he reached out and ran his fingers over the hunter green one Potter held out to him.
It was incredibly soft. A fluffy, yet smooth kind of soft. The kind of soft a man can't help but want to bring to his cheek and rub and rub until it took him back to a time when he felt safe and protected. The kind of soft that instantly brought images of Draco's mother to his mind.
"Soft, yeah?" Potter said eagerly. "It took me a long time to mimic the cashmere texture from sheep wool, but after some serious experimentation with Transfiguration and Charm spells, I came up with this. Nice." He didn't end it as a question, though Draco felt the man was seeking some sort of acknowledgment, praise even, and wasn't that a kick in the pants—Harry Potter seeking praise from a wartime enemy.
However, it was so velvety that Potter was being modest by comparing it to cashmere. This Charmed Wool was amazing.
He looked up at Potter's face and felt sorry for the poor sod. "It's amazing, really." He kept his smile modest as he fingered the material, because he knew even the bumbling fool that was Potter would notice if he seemed too impressed. "Soft indeed. How do you make it? Do you just do the charms, or do you knit the sweaters, too?" What a poof… knitting sweaters.
"Of course. I get the wool from Darren's sheep. Then I clean it, first magically to make sure there isn't any sheep shit in it," he chuckled, "but also, before I do anything else, I go over the entire bale by hand." Potter set the jumpers down in a chair and began running his hands over the maroon one. "You can tell a lot from the feel of the wool, the texture and weight. Some threads won't take a charm like others." He was still grinning as he stared down at his handiwork. A mad wizard indeed, lovingly unveiling the secrets of his insane creation.
For some reason Draco felt that halting Potter from his nancy jumper knitting was akin to kicking puppies and nabbing candy from little boys in short pants. But a man must do his duty, or he faced joblessness and possible begging of his friends for handouts just to get by.
Draco placed the jumper down upon the arm of the sofa as he stood to face Potter. Potter, still on the edge of over-simmering with delight, grinned, but as he looked at Draco's face, the light of his smile dimmed as the dawning of awareness ignited his feeble brain.
Draco pulled out his badge and warrant. "Mr. Harry Potter. By Subsection BB of Section 1 of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Regulation Part 71, I hereby charge you with the production of illegally enchanted wool jumpers that have been released for utilization by Muggles." The man's once delighted expression hardened and twisted and Draco no longer felt anything like guilt and pity.
"You are to cease the manufacture of the illegal jumpers and are to be brought forth before the Lower Criminal Court of the Secondary Wizengamot." He thrust the warrant out to Potter and was unsurprised at the glare piercing through to his conscience as Potter leaned away from the parchment.
"What the fuck, Malfoy? I thought you were here to buy a jumper, not toss me to the dogs of the Secondary Court. Shite. All I want is to be left alone. It's not like my clothes are hurting anyone!" Potter's voice had gone shrill, and Draco felt the sudden need for a headache potion as the dull throb the boarding house's lace and paisley had infested him with grew into the steady beat of hammer on anvil.
He offered up the warrant again as he cleared his throat. "Your actions are illegal…"
"Who cares?" he yelled, pushing Draco's hand away. "I'm not causing anyone ill. Why aren't you chasing real criminals, like Dark wizards? People who are hurting others?"
"That is not my job," he said simply, and fucking hell, didn't he wish he had something more glamorous than MMAD. "This is my job, Potter. To find people who flagrantly break the law and stop them."
Draco stared at Potter, at the stiff line of his mouth, the sharp finger pointing towards his door and opened his mouth to argue once again, but the door that Potter so violently attacked with his finger cracked open.
"Stephen? Everything okay in here?"
Draco stared at the hell-beasts' master and scowled at him. Dropping his hand to his side, limp and deflated from all that anger and righteousness, Potter suddenly looked small.
Draco knew that with reinforcements, he couldn't win this fight. He set the warrant down over the fine jumper that he secretly coveted and walked towards the door. Darren stepped aside, but Draco stopped on the threshold. He turned and looked at Potter, so lost and helpless, and said, "This isn't the end of this."
Darren glowered at Draco as he left, but he kept his eyes ahead of him, ignoring the disgust that he'd heartily earned from this person who defended Potter like a life-long friend. Draco hated him, and Potter, and all those people who earned respect and love by their deeds and actions.
That evening, before the sun had settled into its bed of oranges and reds and true chill would settle over Durrus, Draco stared at himself in the washroom mirror. It was large, almost covering the entire wall above the sink, and was immaculately clean of the usual spit and toothpaste splatter that too many rental places let build up. He had to hand it to Mrs. Loche, at least she was fastidious about her cleaning. It was Thursday evening, and he'd hoped to be home by tonight, to sit back with a good book, maybe that new novel by Reginald Wallingsworth about the ex-Death Eater who now fought against the illicit trading of narcotic potions in South America, or maybe talk to Severus' portrait about how he nearly made Potter cry and let his old mentor browbeat him out of his self-recrimination. Instead he was in County Cork, surrounded by short stone walls and stupid sheep, and a great contempt had settled over him at this peaceful swatch of countryside.
With a flip and a grumble, his stomach reminded him about dinner.
He looked tired, even to himself; he read the fine lines in his normally flawless skin, the bruising around the eyes like a coded missive. He wished for a restorative holiday, but his job didn’t pay enough for anything lengthy, and his cases would only pile up if he hid from them for any truly relaxing period of time.
Reflected gray eyes contemplated the originals, and Draco wondered if the image trapped in silica and lime felt as crappy as he did. He smiled and the reflection smiled back, but he swore there was no humor in it.
His stomach growled again.
After a lengthy affair with his hairbrush and the application of skin-smoothing potions, Draco readied himself to face the unwelcoming horde at the local pub. He wouldn't return to the Long Boat, that place surely used chopped rat in their bangers, but he would try the Sheep's Head pub and hope for the best.
Tonight—this night would be the last night he would be stuck at the arse end of the world.
He pulled on a jumper, scratchy yet warm, and a deep blue pea coat over that to insulate against the cold wind as he walked the five blocks to the pub. The wind wasn't playing fair as it tugged and tossed Draco's hair that he'd just styled to perfection. With curses on his lips, he tugged open the heavy wood door and stepped into the warm and cheery atmosphere of the Sheep's Head.
And at a corner table sitting alone was Potter.
Draco turned right around to leave—sod it, he wasn't that hungry anyway—but he heard his name being called, and it wasn't tainted with hatred or anger. He stopped his retreat and looked back at the knitting delinquent.
"Malfoy, just join me already." His voice carried over the murmurs of the Muggles in the establishment, and as if they were watching the words sail from Potter's lips to his own ears, every head turned in his direction.
Damn, now if he left, it would appear that he was running away. He'd learned long ago that unless your life was at stake, you usually lost the challenge as well as your dignity if you tucked tail and scampered. Instead, he pulled back his shoulders, lifted his chin, and entered the lion's lair.
With the scrape of wood on wood, Draco pulled out a chair and sat across from Potter. The chair wobbled on a short leg as he leaned back. He scowled at the table.
"Listen…" Potter started, but the words dried up on his lips. Draco looked up into those eyes, so overly bright like they held within them mini-stars or perhaps entire worlds, and the two men contemplated each other as the silence between them seemed to have spread throughout the entire pub.
Draco was certain everyone had their undivided attention aimed at them.
Potter lifted up a pint glass and took a sip of amber beer. With a soft thump, he set the glass down on the table that in a previous life could have been the wood from an old barn door or wagon wheel, it was so scared and knotted.
"Beer's good." Potter licked his upper lip.
"Is it?" Sitting forward, the chair shifted.
"Yep. So… uhh… how are you liking this part of Ireland?" Potter asked. There was a large poster of a toucan balancing a glass of Guinness on its beak as it flew through a blue background to the left of Potter's head. Behind him, Draco could hear the inconsequential talk of wool prices and local politics pick up and filter through the soft hum of American country music.
He thought about which mask to slip on, which line of small talk to ply Potter with and realized he simply didn't care. With a shrug he said, "It's cold and smells like sheep shit."
With a bark, Harry laughed, defeating the tension that had crackled between them since their confrontation that morning.
He must be insane, truly and utterly, Draco thought as Potter choked on his laughter and hid his face in the crook of his arm where he'd slammed it against the table.
"God, Draco," Potter said once he'd earned a breath again, "Only you could sum up a place as beautiful and peaceful as Durrus with such limited, yet completely accurate, observations." He sighed with a smile. "There is a pervasive scent of sheep in the air, isn't there?"
Struck dumb, Draco could only nod. Maybe if he agreed, Potter wouldn't crack completely and attack him.
A waitress in her early thirties arrived and handed a menu over to Draco. Her eyes were brilliant blue and she smiled warmly at Potter as she asked, "Bangers and mash or the pie tonight?"
Potter gave a cursory glance to his own menu. "I'll just have the special, Margie. And another Stella, please." He smiled at the waitress, a boyish tilt to his head.
"Lovely choice, Stephen," she said warmly. "And you? Or do you need a minute."
The entire time they'd spoken, Draco had watched Potter, and finally those nomadic eyes wandered up to meet his own. A second passed, and then two and something, electricity or magic or perhaps it was as simple as recognition, hovered between them in the air. And then Potter's eyes closed and slowly reopened, and with his shy smile—Merlin, it might just kill Draco—he leaned forward and said, "The bangers and mash and Shepherd's pie here are the best I've ever had. I usually get them."
The way he said it, it was almost pornographic.
That moment stretched on, three seconds, four, and Draco knew, without being completely aware of the specifics, that everything had just changed.
"The pie," he said, unable to look away. "I'll have the pie and a Stella, too, please."
The waitress left to fill their orders and the experience faded like a dream. Draco wondered if everything that had just passed between them was all in his head, some figment his mind had created because he was lonely and he hated his job and he read about Death Eaters gone right for entertainment.
"Have you been down to the lighthouse yet?" Harry asked after another drink. Draco watched his Adam's apple bob with each swallow.
"No." He didn't want to say that he was here on business. That he was here to stop Potter from doing what he obviously loved, to bring him to court back in the wizarding world that he'd been avoiding for his own reasons. He leaned forward and whispered harshly, "Why are you here, Potter? In with the Muggles? Knitting, for Merlin's sake?"
Potter tore his eyes away—how long had he been staring?—and for a brief instant his hand hovered for his hair, but instead he propped his elbow on the table and rested his chin on his fist, and lost himself fumbling for some plausible excuse. Draco waited and hoped it was good, because if Draco had had to face down his accusers, shouldn't Potter have to face down the love and adoration of the mindless masses?
Here or there. Either way, he was surrounded by sheep.
"I like it here," he finally said, still looking off over Draco's shoulder. "It's quiet and open. Not so many people."
"Not so many wizards," Draco corrected.
"Not just that…." Potter sat straight in his chair, finally looking at him. "I feel like I can breathe out here, even if the air smells of shit and lanolin." His eyes were intense, demanding that Draco understand what it was he was really trying to say.
Draco ran his finger along a seam in the wood, catching a splinter and pulling it loose, and chanced voicing his own interpretation. "Nobody to demand miracles from you?"
Potter scoffed, and then shrugged. The following silence between them stewed as he acknowledged that truth. "Somewhat. I was just tired of having people expect things of me… of not knowing if I was who I wanted to be or who they had been expecting me to be all along. I had to get away from all that pressure to figure out who it is I am." Then he laughed. "It sounds so damned touchy-feely doesn't it?" Finally his hand won the battle and it ran through his hair, mussing it into fetching disarray.
Margie arrived with their pints and set them on two square coasters. The beer's color through the dim lighting of the pub was a light auburn, and a thin froth coated the surface. He began with a sip and then changed in mid-drink to swallow down gulp after gulp, enjoying the slide of it down his throat. It soothed on the way down and settled kindly in his belly, and all the while he watched Potter's intense gaze from the edge of his sight, watching Draco swallow over and over. Half full, he set the glass down and sucked on his bottom lip to catch the last trace of the alcohol. Potter shifted his scrutiny and stared down at his own full glass.
“Listen,” he started again, his voice fortified against distraction. “About the jumpers...”
Potter dropped the sentence. His shoulders sagged, and he seemed empty, less of himself and that just pissed Draco off.
“Potter, not while I'm eating. My work hours are from nine till five o'clock. Right now,” he glanced up at a wall clock with hands pointing towards the seven and nine, “it is well past five. Good beer.” He took another long drink, watching as Potter's tentative smile enveloped his entire face, turning into something overtly confident.
“It is, yeah,” he agreed. “So, how is London these days?”
Draco Apparated from behind Loche House to the familiar outcropping of gray stone near the edge of the Dunmanus. The coast below his arrival point was spectacular, and he took a moment to appreciate the deep gullies and shattered rock. The sea's force had ripped apart the sandstone, pitting the layered sheets with rock-scars, and though it was a quiet day, Draco's memory revisited the oil painting hanging in Potter's cottage. Yesterday, he hadn't realized, but today he knew it was beautiful. The old fisherman jumped when Draco stepped around the rock and shook a wave in his direction.
“Good day,” Draco said as he passed by, happy no struggling fish gasped at him begging for rescue. He nodded at the oak, crossed the road to impose distance between him and those feral vermin, and smiled brightly at the Dog Man walking through the sheep field towards his house, offering a mocking wave of his fingers before he knocked on Potter's door.
The door opened wide, releasing soft sounds of some corny Irish tune, and Potter's curious smile melted into surprise. Draco had been certain he'd given a hundred different kinds of hints that he'd be back the next day. Maybe Potter wasn't too keen after five lagers.... Maybe Potter just wasn't that keen at all.
“Mr. Harry Potter. I am here on behalf of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Division. It has come to the Division's attention that you might be producing enchanted garments and supplying them to Muggles for purchase. This is an illegal action under Part 71, Section 1, Subsection BB of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts code. I am here to search your premises to determine if you are indeed engaging in these criminal actions, to confiscate the illegal items if they do so exist, and if I have determined you are the manufacturer, to bring you before the Secondary Wizengamot for trial. Please allow me to search your premises.”
Draco paused his speech and leveled his gaze at Potter. The green of Potter's eyes seemed lost amidst the white and his mouth hung open in a fair rendition of the pierced perch. It was a tragically unattractive look. Draco waited.
Potter closed his mouth and dropped the hand that had held open the door down to his side. “No,” he said.
Draco tried not to smile. “No what, Mr. Potter? No, you are not selling charmed jumpers to the Muggle populace or no, you will not allow me to search your premises? I do have a warrant.” Draco pulled out the parchment that now had a crease down the center. He ran his finger over the fold, smoothing it out with a slight touch of magic.
Potter coughed. “There are no charmed jumpers in my house,” he said with a smirk.
Draco snorted. He was hoping to catch the Gryffindor in a lie. “Perhaps on your property? In an outbuilding?” he asked.
Potter grabbed the warrant and read it over. It read property, not just the house. Potter couldn't get away that easily. He glanced up from the document, his eyes flashing as he said, “There are no other buildings on my property.”
Then he tossed the warrant back at Draco. “Tea?” he asked with a tilt to his head. His black fringe parted to reveal the faded brand on his forehead.
“Certainly. English Breakfast if you have it.” Potter stepped back and Draco entered. No pile of jumpers overburdened the chair, though the scent of lanolin was light in the house now that the fish smell no longer penetrated the air. “Smells like sheep in here, Potter.” He glanced up at the ship and the roiling sea.
“Yes, that would be because I just finished weaving a wool blanket.” As he passed into the kitchen he gestured to a blanket hanging over the back of the recliner, the edge brushing against the plank floor.
With a squint to his eye, he examined Potter's retreating back until he disappeared. Then he pulled out his wand and tested the blanket for magic. It was clean. He tucked his wand away and reached out for it. The fabric was soft, though it still had the typical scratch of wool, even fine wool. Nothing like the jumper he'd felt yesterday. Still, it was fine craftsmanship with bright greens and deep blues. “You made this?” he asked as he ran his hand over it.
“Yes. I dyed the wool, too.”
Draco looked up and Potter stood there with a tray and two cups of tea. “Sugar, no milk?”
The night was completely clear and the stars smothered the dark blanket of space. There was a bite to the air and Draco wore his coat buttoned tight as he strolled to the pub. Potter sat in the corner looking for someone. When he saw Draco, he grinned and raised his hand, as if Draco hadn't been looking right at him. Draco lifted his chin, and then wove through the half-full tables and chairs to join him.
People watched him as he passed by.
He figured that whatever it was that was happening between them, it should have been awkward. It should go badly. But he found that there was familiarity between them. They had a similar history, and they'd both lived through war and prejudice; perhaps with that came camaraderie, however unexpected. They had always been rivals, but Draco began to wonder if they weren't simply opposite sides of the same coin. Not so different at the core.
"Stellas, boys?" Margie asked, and both men nodded.
"So, Malfoy," Harry started as the waitress headed to the bar, "Catch any criminals today?"
"Not today," he said with a sorry shake to his head. "There is this one criminal I've been working on, but he refuses to cooperate. I'm certain he's doing the crime he's charged of, but I've no tangible proof yet."
Margie returned and set down their pilsners. "What can I get you two for dinner?" she asked. Her hair was long and blond, and suddenly Draco missed his mother. "The special is colcannon with kale."
"I'll have that," Potter said and Draco ordered another. The royal fare he'd been accustomed to as a child wasn't to be found on the menu, and he figured he'd fit in better if he ordered the ploughman's with the locals. Then, they might stop staring at him.
After Margie left, Potter said, "Good luck on your criminal. I'm inclined to suggest you let this one go, small fry really. Not that I'm telling you how to go about your job, of course." He lifted his hands up in surrender.
His lashes were dark and impossibly long and they framed his eyes like a Michelangelo behind his glasses. The color seemed darker now than they had a day ago when they'd met for the first time in years. He remembered the girls in the common room giggling over Potter and how gorgeous they all thought he was. His dark, messy hair, his angst ridden attitude, and those eyes. They compared them to emeralds and Slytherin green. To Draco, they looked like growing things, promises of spring, like the endless fields of the Sheep's Head.
"Of course I won't give up. Draco Malfoy always gets his man."
He hadn’t intended the double entendre, but by the immediate deepening of those green promises and the heat to his cheeks, Draco knew inadvertently he'd cast his line and caught his quarry without the aid of any struggling bait.
Dog Man was waiting for him today.
"What is it you want with Stephen?" he asked as Draco crossed the street.
"It is a personal matter between me and him, and I suggest you ask him if you wish an answer." Draco smirked his most condescending smirk, one he'd learned long ago from Pansy—oh, she'd been the queen of smirks—and walked on.
When Potter opened the door, he tossed it open wide to allow Draco entrance.
Draco held up his hand and then began his accusation in a professional, dry tone. “Mr. Harry Potter, I am here on behalf of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Division. It has come to the Division's attention that….”
Potter leaned against the blue doorframe, listening through the entire thing, nodding periodically, a slight smile gracing his lips. And didn't he have fine lips? Draco couldn't tear his eyes away as he recited the charges.
"Mr. Malfoy," Potter began. "I've no charmed jumpers on my premises."
"Do you manufacture charmed jumpers?"
Potter's eyes contracted to slits and then he shook his head. "No, I do not."
"Tomorrow, Potter. Tomorrow, I will get you."
Why Draco was playing this game, he couldn't answer for himself. Perhaps he was bored, and it was as simple as that. Merlin knew he gave half a crap about charmed jumpers, and the majority of his career was worth a smidgen less than the market value of troll shit.
Potter smiled, and Draco noticed he had dimples, though not deep; they were the kind that only popped out in a truly honest grin.
Perhaps that smile, those lips, that happy glow had more to do with his actions over the last few days than Draco was willing to face just now.
"But, if you are done for today, why don't you come in and I'll show you my loom."
The mention of the loom lit a spark within his old rival. His hands fluttered about as he spoke, the long fingers twitching and dancing with his words; he couldn't seem to stop the grin from consuming his face. The dimples remained. He hadn't been aware that Potter's teeth were so straight.
With a dip of his head, Draco acquiesced and followed the loony weaver down the hallway into a back room. The clack of their shoes echoed a little too loudly, and Draco realized they'd just crossed into magical space expansion.
Two doors faced each other across the hallway and Potter reached for the one on the right. Beyond the door was a steep set of stairs down into a dark realm of the unknown. Magic tingled over Draco's skin as he passed through the door and placed his foot upon the top step. Then down they went, one, two, three steps, and suddenly they were in a well lit, warm room that was drowning in the scent of sheep.
There were piles of carded wool, and to Draco they looked like those little clouds children would draw with rounded edges and distinctive shapes. In the back of the room were bubbling vats, and he was certain he caught the scent of greenery and fruit smothered under that of the wool.
In the center of the room was the spinning wheel. It was ancient with the lacquer rubbed off after generations of hands had worked wool through it. There was a cushion on the wooden seat and a basket with red dyed wool by the side.
This is where Potter spun. Where, with more skill and finesse than he'd ever done anything except maybe fly, the man created something lasting and meaningful. There were mounds of reds and golds, some deep burgundy and pale yellow. The colors exploded in a soft clamor of visual acrobatics. He stuck his hand into his pocket, reining in that urge to pet the fibers.
Against the wall were two looms, one small and the other almost twice as big. A large rug with a Native American design was stretched out over the large loom's frame, halfway finished.
"So, this is where the creative genius makes his masterpieces," Draco drawled, smothering just how amazed he really was. He was a man of masks and it wouldn't do to appear too impressed.
"Yes. This is it."
That evening at dinner, Draco told Potter about London after the war, his probation and how his mother had been shot in the streets by a witch with a Muggle handgun.
"Really?" he asked. "Is—is she…?"
"She was killed, Potter. My mother was killed." He stopped for a moment, reciting the words in his head. My mother was killed. "I miss her. Merlin, I miss her."
Something about the confession lifted a weight he hadn't realized he'd been bent under.
"Well—" Potter lifted his glass, "—Here's to Narcissa."
"Narcissa," Draco mimicked and drank to his dead mother.
"Draco, dear," Mrs. Loche cooed. Literally. The sound was high and stretched out, softened by the rounded cavern of her mouth. His name came out "Draacooooo" and the 'o' of it turned into a long 'oo,' she held the note so long.
Perhaps if he only smothered her to death, didn't do anything Unforgivable, nobody would ever accuse him of murder. Surely, it would be a mercy to the population of the world.
"Yes, Mrs. Loche?" He turned away from the door he'd almost escaped from and smiled at her.
"Biscuit before you leave?" She held up a plate with one flabby arm. There were butter and chocolate dipped ones neatly stacked on it. He plucked up a chocolate biscuit and lifted it up in salute.
"Thank you." He walked out the door.
It had become a daily habit over the past week for Draco to walk a small portion of the Way and then, when he was certain nobody was looking, Apparate to that same rock formation by the bay's edge. More often than not the old fisherman would be there engaged in various degrees of fish assassination, and each afternoon they shared a friendly greeting.
His normal mockery of Potter's lovesick puppy, however, was stalled as Dog Man approached him by walking down the center of the road. One mutt paced him on either side, and Draco covered up his very minute dog anxiety by bolstering himself up with the knowledge that the man feared him enough to bring those lowbred monsters.
As Draco waited, he stuffed his hands inside his pockets, his fingers tight around his wand.
"You need to stop harassing Stephen," he said. "He's a good guy, and I can tell your visits are disturbing him."
"Oh yes? And what will you do about it if I chose to ignore this little fit of jealousy?" But Draco wondered, was he disturbing Potter? He seemed to enjoy their verbal foreplay, and isn't that what it was, even when Draco recited dull wizarding law? And though it should have annoyed Draco, their little exchanges didn't seem to cause Potter any concern. "Afraid I might sweep him out from under your watchful obsession?"
Dog Man glowered, but he didn't look embarrassed by the accusation nor did he deny it. "What are you to him anyway?"
"A little insecure? Oh, Stephen and I go way back. We went to boarding school together in Scotland, and you know how close boys can get in boarding school." He leered at the man and cheered inside when he finally looked away. He wouldn't lose to this Muggle, this country boy. And more and more, Draco realized that he wanted to win this contest.
"Sure you have history, but ya don't know a thing about what he went through last year. You come in here like some cocky knight in armor, stomping around like you're the king of the schoolyard without even understanding 'im." Dog Man's voice had risen through his tirade, and he finally took notice of it. He looked down towards Draco's shoes then back up to his face, his nose flaring as he inhaled deeply. "Do you even know about Richy? About what they had and how his drowning broke Stephen's heart? It took him six months before he could even visit the pubs again. Did you ever know about that?" Darren's head was already shaking in denial.
He and Potter had talked about many things over the past few days. London, Draco's life, a bit about knitting. Nothing about a drowning or some bloke named Richy. Nothing about any of Potter's heartache.
"Didn't think so. If you care about Stephen, you should stop and think about what's best for him… Selfish prick." Dog Man took a step towards Draco, then stopped. "Stop harassing him."
Movement down the road caught Draco's eye, and he resisted the urge to call out when he saw that it was Potter walking their way. Romeo and Peking rose up off their haunches and barreled down the road, kicking up dust.
"Hey," Potter said once he got within speaking distance, both dogs loping about his heels. "What's going on?" Draco could hear the strain in Potter's voice; he was an expert in catching the slightest nuance of a lie or smothered emotion.
"Just getting to know your neighbor." Draco stared at Potter's chin, unable to meet his eyes. Why hadn't Potter said anything?
Potter glanced from Draco to Darren, his eyebrows raised.
"So, Darren. Anymore sheep missing?" As subject changes went, that one could have had more elegance.
Darren kicked at the road. "Aye, three more that I can tell. No carcasses, so I don't think it's feral dogs. But lately, the boys—" he glanced at the dogs "—get agitated around 2 in the morning. Sometimes they wake me up with their bawling, but I go out there and don't see a thing."
Potter nodded and said, "Well, I hope you figure out what's going on."
Dog Man smiled. "Yeah, you just don't want to run low on wool." Potter laughed and then sobered in the span of a breath.
"Malfoy, I can't do this today. Can we have a break?"
Draco mock pouted. "Then I can't charge overtime, Potter." But even as he whined, he examined Potter's face, his tired eyes. "But sure. We all need weekends." With a nod and a smirk to Potter's neighbor, he turned and walked away.
As usual, Draco ate dinner at the pub, and Margie greeted him like he'd been patronizing the Sheep's Head for years. "Draco!" she called over the music, already pulling his pilsner. People didn't stare at him anymore.
He'd always heard that these small Irish villages never accepted anyone who didn't have their family tree firmly rooted in the soil, but Draco didn't feel like an outsider anymore. Not necessarily a loved member of the community, but not someone to be chased out with pitchforks and flaming torches, either.
Potter arrived five minutes after Draco, and the two settled into companionable silence. Until Potter suggested something incredibly characteristic for him and something incredibly uncharacteristic for Draco.
"I want to do a stakeout in Darren's field and see if we can find out how his sheep are going missing." The way he rushed out the words, Draco bet he'd been reciting it over and over in his head over the last five minutes.
The glass Draco had tilted to his lips halted. "Excuse me?"
But for some reason he couldn't argue his way out of the silly escapade, and he found himself in a make-shift blind built out of magic and stone in the dead cold morning of late spring. A few minutes ago, they'd just finished putting tracking charms on each one of the flock, all fifty-eight of them, and Draco was drowsy and sick of the sight and smell of sheep.
They were nestled in their little bunker that cut the bite to the air with a Warming Charm. Each man was watching out a hole in the opposite wall, and perhaps it was the fact that he wasn't facing Potter that he felt he could ask the question.
"So, Potter. You do know that your neighbor boy wants to shag you, right?" He felt it was his duty to inform Potter, and to be honest, he wasn't sure just how quick on the uptake he was.
Potter shifted behind him. Draco glanced over his shoulder, but could barely see Potter's shape in the darkness of their blind. "Yeah, I know. And so does the guy I'm sitting next to right now."
Draco had opened his mouth to add something snide about dog breath or table manners, but instead he closed it, slowly and with complete control. "So much for subtlety, Potter," he scolded.
A few moments passed, the air empty of breath or talk. "I figure it's easier to just say it than spend another week dancing around, not that I don't mind the dancing," Potter said, and Draco could tell he was smiling by the warm tone of his voice.
He enjoyed the dancing. Draco couldn't stop the grin, and he didn't try because nobody could see him in this damned bunker anyway.
"First," Draco said, and a vocal part of his brain was screaming that he was an idiot and that he should just kiss Potter right now and not ask such irrelevant questions, but he asked anyway. "Who is Richy?"
The Warming Charm must have failed because the air suddenly drew cold, like a portal directly to the arctic had just been opened and it sucked out all the warmth.
"How do you know about Richy?" Potter's voice was dry, devoid of emotion.
"Don't call him that," Potter said with a sigh. His shoulder bumped into Draco's back as he shifted.
"Don’t change the subject."
It was so damned dark, and Draco really wished he could see Potter's face right now. Instead he stared out over the heath and watched the sheep huddled together, chewing their cud or doing something else equally disgusting.
"He was my… boyfriend."
"Oh, I hate that label… It makes it sound like it's just sex." An owl hooted nearby. "I loved Richy. I would have married him, given a few more years and legality." Potter stopped talking. "He was a painter, and he loved the sea—and...and it swallowed him whole."
"Is he the artist of that piece in your home?" Richard Kennedy. That stormy scene had reflected more truth than Draco had assumed.
"Yeah. He loved to create." A sheep baaed out in the field, but Draco didn't see any movement. "He's the one who turned me on to knitting. I'd been so focused on destroying my whole childhood; all through school Dumbledore had trained me to be this fighter and martyr. I realized that wasn't me. I wanted to create, too."
"But knitting, Potter?" Draco joked. "Surely you could have done something more… manly. Like chainsaw wood carving."
"Or how about welding?" Potter said with a chuckle.
"Oh yes, I can just imagine your metal sculptures right now, little kitties and rainbows. Sheep. You really should have tea with the proprietor of my B&B. You two would get along."
"Mrs. Loche?" he asked, and Draco was surprised. "She is a bit… much sometimes, yeah?"
They settled into silence, watching the sheep do nothing. The Milky Way painted a swath across the night sky and Draco had to admit it was peaceful.
"So, are you over this Richy bloke?" He had to know.
"It's been over a year," Potter said quietly. "I miss him, the idea of him. But yeah, I'm over him." And Draco felt a hand touch his back, run down his shoulder blade along his arm and grab his own in a tight fist.
"How about Dog—"
"Darren, then. How about him?"
"He's a good friend, but that's all. I realized, since MMAD has been hot on my heels," he chuckled and then his voice took on all seriousness, "that I miss the wizarding world." He squeezed Draco's hand. Draco squeezed back.
Another half-hour stretched between them, most of Draco's attention focused on that point where they were attached. Just two hands, but to Draco it seemed that everything had changed again.
Then movement out in the darkness pulled him out of his private bliss. "Potter," he called. "Something out there."
"What? Really?" He crawled up beside Draco, their sides pressed together, and stared out through the little hole into the dark. "Where?"
"Just watch, something low to the ground by that boulder."
The two men's eyes strained in the dark landscape, eating up every flick of a sheep's ear or dip of grass in the wind. Finally, they both spotted a hunched figure slipping through the boulders and bushes of the heath. It looked to be about three-feet high if it stood up straight, and it had a bulbous head.
"Is that a--?" Potter began in wonder.
"Gnome?" Draco finished.
"I think so. Come on, let's go."
The two men scrambled out of their hidey-hole and sprinted over the rough terrain; Draco lit his wand to better hurdle over the stones and ankle twisters. The little gnome squealed at their approach and turned to run back the way he came. With his unsteady wobble it was easy for the two wizards to catch up to and body-bind him.
"Stop! Stop!" cried the squeaky gnome. "Do not hurt Bibble!"
"Bibble, have you been stealing sheep from this field?" Harry stood over the poor little man, wand steady and aimed at his overly large nose. What Draco had first though was an amorphous head was really a floppy, woolen cap.
"We is taking only a few sheep! They come to live with us in the caverns."
"Why are you stealing only this field's sheep? Nobody else has been missing sheep."
"This is best sheep. Happy sheep. Give best wool." The gnome cowered in his binding, his huge eyes glistened in the light of Draco's Lumos.
Potter lowered his wand and squinted into Draco's light. Then he shrugged and looked back down at the gnome. "You can't take anymore," he said. "These sheep are under my protection. I use their wool, too."
The bindings slithered off their captive like wet noodles, and Bibble stood and bowed low, his oversized nose brushing the sheep-cropped grass. "Yes, Bibble will tell others. Leave the sheep to the wizard," and then he scurried off.
"Well, that was simple enough," Potter said, pleased.
"Yes, you have single-handedly saved the wholesale theft of one man's livelihood. What a hero."
Potter peered at him, and then laughed. "Yeah, I am, huh?" He scratched the short hair on the back of his head. "Now that that's over, shall we go back to my place?"
The offer was casual, and Draco almost took it as something innocent, but then he caught the twitch of Potter's eye, the strain to his lips and knew that this offer was the offer and Draco had better not screw it up.
"Yeah. Let's walk." The night didn't seem so cold anymore as he trudged through the field with his hand held tightly in Potter's.
Draco's mind was flipping through one seduction technique to the next as they walked quietly back to Potter's cottage. Should he be tender and cover him in kisses, or maybe forceful and press him up against the door the minute they walk in? Every scenario caused his cock to tremble in anticipation, and he decided that this was too important, that he didn't want to lose this, and maybe he should just let Potter direct the play.
They walked up the three steps to the door, and he followed Potter inside. Draco reached out towards his back, wanted to touch, to pet, to take, but his reach stalled, and he dropped his hand as the other man turned to face him.
"It's been a while…"
Was Potter blushing? "Me, too," Draco admitted. Too few people wanted to date a man on the losing side of the war. "Do you want to go--?" he gestured towards the hallway. The moment had become awkward, because he knew Potter and cared about him, and holy hell, when exactly had that happened? This wasn't a shag on the heath, this was hopefully the precursor to many shags on the heath.
"Ah, bollocks," he said and reached for Potter, dragging him into his arms, pressing his lips hard onto the other man's and was elated to feel those entrancing lips kiss back. It was a mass of limbs and breath and kisses, of arms clutching onto each other and stumbles as they shuffled to the bedroom without releasing their holds. It was terrible, and it was beautiful, and Draco growled in desire when they finally landed on the bed.
"Clothing. Off," Potter demanded and Draco stood to drop his clothes so fast he thought he'd torn the sleeve of his shirt. Potter lay naked on the bed, long and lanky, broad across the chest, and covered in a history of scars that probably matched his own. He was gorgeous, and he now understood every single thing those girls in the common room had said. Dark and angsty and full of promise.
Emeralds and Slytherin green.
His cock jutted out of a thick thatch of black curls and his balls hung heavy between his legs. They begged to be swallowed whole, and so Draco obliged.
"Draco!" Harry cried out as Draco took him into his mouth, and he couldn’t help the jolt at the sound of his name, his given name, on Potter's lips. He sucked harder, rubbing the entire length of his cock with his tongue, pulling out sobs and sighs, groans and his name over and over.
"Draco, Merlin fucking God. Draco!"
He loved that Potter was a screamer. He reached for his wand and spelled a puddle of lubricant in the palm of his hand, and with eager, shaky hands, he dipped his finger into that tight hole.
"Yess," Potter sighed and began rocking his hips, thrusting his cock down Draco's throat as Draco drove his fingers, first one, then two, deeper and deeper into him.
"Now! I'm ready now," Potter urged, and Draco couldn't argue because this dance was coming to an end and he couldn’t wait for the finale. Slowly, and with care, he slid into Potter's waiting body. And Merlin, wasn't that worth a million stakeouts in the cold and the ever-present scent of sheep? In no time, both men were crying out; Draco fisted Potter's prick as he thrust into his tight body. So hot and perfect and he swore his brain malfunctioned as he spilled himself deep inside, filling Potter as he continued to pump his lover's aching cock with his hand.
Then Potter groaned and his body spasmed beneath his. Long streams of come shot out all over his hand, reaching Potter's belly and chest.
"Oh yes, yes… So damned good," Potter babbled, wrapping his arms around Draco as he collapsed on top of him, uncaring at the mess, his bones throbbing and tired.
"Yes, Harry. Fucking brilliant." And he passed out.
When he woke he was clean and wrapped up in a very soft blanket. It wasn't late, but the sky was lightening in the east. Potter was snuggled up to his side, dropping kisses along the bare skin of his shoulders and neck. The brush of his long fringe tickled against Draco's ear.
Draco shifted, and rolled towards his lover… boyfriend? The blanket slid over his chest and groin and fucking hell if that didn't almost cause him to come right there.
"This blanket is really soft," Draco said accusingly.
"Umm, yeah… Thanks." Kiss along the shoulder. Kiss on his pectoral.
"It's Charmed Wool, isn't it? I thought you got rid of it!" Finally, he'd caught the goody boy lying.
"Well, I muffled the magical signature so it wouldn't register as magical anymore," Potter mumbled. He stopped dropping kisses and looked up at Draco. "Now, nobody will know." He offered up his shy grin, but Draco wasn't about to let Potter off that easily.
"Have you felt this stuff?" Potter didn't say anything. "Nobody is ever going to not notice. You just shagged me to get me to drop the charges. Admit it, felon," Draco said, surreptitiously rubbing his cock against the deliciously soft material.
Potter chuckled. "But shouldn't a bloke drop such silly charges for such a good lay?" he asked.
"Only if there is more where that came from," Draco said in his most formidable MMAD voice.
"I think I can arrange that." Potter leaned forward and kissed him long and hard. "For my art, of course. The things I sacrifice for my art."